Ron Onesti: Love is in ‘The Arcada Air’
As another Valentine’s Day comes and goes, I can’t help but think about the countless romantic moments of which the Arcada Theatre has been a part.
Of course, giving the gift of entertainment has always been a valuable resource when it come to that “perfect” present to a loved one, friend or co-worker. Usually, a gift certificate for dinner before the show at the speak-easy upstairs rounds out a memorable evening for the recipient.
But I am actually referring to the timeless ambience and shows with legends and icons that The Arcada has provided for that perfect gift of love. Here’s a great example:
A very good friend of mine wanted to do something special for his wife’s 60th birthday. I asked him a couple of pertinent questions. First, what is his wife’s favorite band, and what was her favorite song. Her most favorite group is Journey. Favorite song? Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger.”
I knew what I was going to do.
I told my friend to invite as many friends and family he wanted for a very special “surprise” evening. They were all supposed to show up at 7:30 p.m., he and she at 8.
About 150 friends and relatives showed up for the surprise. The time came for my friend and his wife, Sandy, to arrive. He told her he bought tickets to a show for her birthday. Little did she know, she WAS the show!
They entered the lobby, and I met them as if I was just walking by. “Hey, what are you guys doing here,” I asked convincingly. He said they were there to see the show, but it was a surprise for her.
“Oh, you will love THIS show, Sandy,” I said.
I flung open the theater doors to reveal a huge “Happy Birthday Sandy” on our big screen with 150 of her closest friends and family assembled in front of the stage yelling, “Surprise!”
After a receiving line and everybody pounding a few hundred of my meatballs, I invited the couple to the stage. I had a local band pretend to be a polka band, and not a very good one. It was actually a fabulous cover band “playing along” with the surprise.
I got up on stage and told of the surprise her husband wanted to put together for her. I said, “Sandy, your husband has told me that your favorite song is ‘Eye of the Tiger’ by Survivor. Well we have arranged for a very special surprise for you. Here to perform that song is the guy who wrote it! From The Ides of March, he wrote several hits including more for Survivor, .38 Special and so many others. Please welcome, Jim Peterik!”
She nearly fainted as the famed theme from “Rocky” had the crowd go wild, and a huge singalong ensued!
After that song, I spoke a minute about the love the two had shared for so many years. “I know you love Journey, and in particular, the band’s huge hit, ‘Faithfully.’ I would like the band to perform ‘Faithfully’ as you two come up on stage for a romantic dance.”
After a long “Awwwwwwwwww” from the “awwwwdience,” the band began the familiar song, the two held each other in a romantic embrace, preparing to slow dance to the rock ballad onstage.
After the instrumental intro, who walks out from the stage-left curtains to sing the song? Steve Augeri, the former lead singer of JOURNEY! They sang “Faithfully” as they danced together on stage! It was magical!
The place went up for grabs and the solo dance by the couple on stage became a tear-jerking moment of love and romance!
Sandy had to be physically supported during the dance.
I’ll never forget that night. Just like I won’t forget the time we acted as a double agent for this one young couple.
She wanted to surprise her boyfriend with a birthday shout out from the stage during a concert with his favorite band. As I always try to accommodate young love, I said, “Sure!”
Her boyfriend somehow found out about her request and he contacted me. He wanted to do something special for her, too.
So I told him I was going to call his name and he was to join me on stage. I was going to make a big deal about his birthday. That would get them both on stage together. Let’s just say it was a bit more than just a “shout out.” As the couple came on stage, I started to say how much his girlfriend loved him and that she wanted the band to wish him a happy birthday. Then the band came out, and the crowd went crazy.
But with a huge plot-twist, I then said, “Well Julie, this was a very nice gesture you wanted us to be a part of for your boyfriend’s birthday. But actually, the surprise is on you!”
At that moment, the boyfriend went down on one knee, presented her with a ring and asked her to marry him, with his AND her favorite band flanking them both.
She said “Yes” amid heavy rock ‘n’ roll tears.
And when I found out the wedding song of one of our regular customers was “You’re the Biggest Part of Me” by Ambrosia, I suggested he bring his wife to dinner upstairs in the speak-easy, and not to tell her who was playing downstairs in the theater. Now you must know that this couple is the hardest rockin’, heavy metal band fans we have! I would never think THAT power ballad would have been their song over, let’s say, “Cherry Pie” by Warrant!
He brought her down at the moment Ambrosia began to perform that song. I took them backstage to dance to that song in honor of their anniversary later that week. They had their wedding “first” dance again, all by themselves, backstage, and it was magical!
I have dozens of these stories. This age-old building has a magic and a vibe to it like no other. When it comes to love and music, The Arcada just seems to connect the two. Not that there are “Love Connections” at The Arcada, but what better place could there be for that?
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email email@example.com.